36 EWS engineer awarded bronze star for deployment effort

  • Published
  • By Samuel King Jr.
  • Team Eglin Public Affairs
Volunteering for an opportunity to incorporate electronic warfare into a real-world wartime environment has led to a Bronze Star medal for one engineer in the 36th Electronic Warfare Squadron. 

Capt. Pamela Tan, a military engineer, received her medal Jan. 22 from Col. Steve DePalmer, 53rd Wing commander, for her seven-month service as an electronic warfare officer with an Army battalion in Iraq. 

Captain Tan, a six-year veteran, said she volunteered for the deployment as a change of pace from her primary duty as a team member testing the ALR-56M for the F-16.
After five weeks of training, she was stationed at a forward operating base south of Baghdad and put in charge of the ground electronic warfare mission for an entire Army battalion of close to 500 people. 

"When I got there, the Army unit was preparing to leave, so I had the opportunity to learn my job with the 'old' pros, then train a brand new battalion on electronic warfare," said the 30-year-old. 

Her primary duties were to install and maintain the frequency jammers attached to the vehicles that would go outside the base perimeter and train the soldiers on how to use it. To do that, she often ventured beyond the wire to see the tactics the Army used, so she could better incorporate electronic warfare into their routine. 

"It was very important to get face-time with those soldiers who were actually using the equipment," said Captain Tan. "I tried to provide them some basic troubleshooting tips if the system went down. Many times the soldiers had never seen or touched this equipment before arriving in theater." 

Midway through her deployment, there was a leadership change and a new set of directives. Her unit's area of responsibility grew from a few small villages to an area the size of Atlanta. This created new challenges for the captain's single-person shop. 

"I had a good routine going you know. I knew all the guys, then all of a sudden the workload doubled," said the California native. "Now there were new vulnerabilities, intel, population and interference." 

With all of new challenges and exposure, the unit never lost a life to combat. 

"When the soldiers would return from patrol, I would hear stories of explosions going off after the convoy would roll by," said the captain. "They would say it had to be the jammers." 

The captain is the third member of the 36 EWS to deploy as an electronic warfare officer and two more are on the way. Even the squadron commander has completed a tour, and he knows the importance of the EW mission in the field. 

"I am extremely proud of Captain Tan," said Lt. Col. Greg Patchske, 36 EWS commander. "Her accomplishments while deployed truly amaze me. The 53rd EWG (Electronic Warfare Group) has been providing EW support to Army units in both Afghanistan and Iraq for several years now. Our EW professionals assist the Army with integrating EW into their ground operations. Bottom line - soldier's lives were saved by the heroic efforts of Capt Tan and all the deployed EW experts."